Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Reading, writing and

not arithmetic.
Oh yes, we are back to the arguments about the national school curriculum again. Sigh...
The national school curriculum was set up some years ago. The idea was that, because families are much more mobile than they used to be, it would be easier for children to transfer from one state education system to another. Sensible? Yes.
The problem was that it was used for another purpose as well. It was used to push a particular view of the world. It was given an "indigenous culture" and "Asia centric" focus with an emphasis on "sustainability".
Yes, I know a lot of people will see nothing wrong with that. I do. It was, in my not so humble opinion, completely the wrong way to go about things. Schools were supposed to do things like teach very young students about indigenous number concepts. I won't go into those concepts here except to say they are, of course, not the same as the concepts on which Western mathematics are based. It might well be something interesting to learn but the problem was that children were supposed to be taught about this in maths lessons - not in social science. "We count like this and they count like that." Confusing?  Yes, almost certainly confusing in the context of a maths lesson.
To be blunt about the national curriculum - it was a "politically correct" document. It was designed to teach students a particular view about "indigenous culture". It ignored the fact that indigenous culture does not exist. There is a complex and varied set of cultures and beliefs - which have now been greatly changed by outside influences. It is also a set of cultures and beliefs seen largely from an outside perspective.
And "Asia centric". Yes, we still have issues with that. The "we must be part of the Asian region" mantra is still alive and well. One day Australia might learn to be itself. We have plenty of Asian migrants. They make up a good percentage of the community and they contribute a great deal. Australia does a lot of business with Asia but we are best seen as neighbours and not part of the family.
There is no need to insist that all children learn an Asian language. The vast majority of them will never use it. If they go to Asia on holiday then they will speak English because they don't speak Japanese in Bali or Chinese in Phuket. Business, particularly business between three or more countries, is usually conducted in English with interpreters available as needed.
And then we have "sustainability" - or the constant emphasis on global warming and the environment. I note what the Little Drummer Boy next door has been taught. It appears to be about rising sea levels and melting ice and hot summers with fossil fuels and 'carbon' thrown in to the daily mix across as many subjects as possible. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.
The Little Drummer Boy thinks school is "boring because it is always about the same sort of stuff" and he has already managed to learn that spelling does not matter provided that you "write down what you are supposed to say".
I cannot generalise from one child - although I know others with similar views - but it bothers me. I am sure there are plenty of good schools with excellent teachers who are doing their best to give the students a more balanced view of the world. I am also sure it is hard work.
The new curriculum proposals seem to be swinging in the other direction. I hope they don't swing too far. One day they might get the balance right.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very sad that the Little Drummer Boy has learned that spelling doesn't matter. He is being set up for a life of unemployment or limited to very basic laboring jobs